UK petrol stations run dry as truck driver shortage sparks hoarding

Thousands of British gas stations ran dry on Monday, an industry group said, as motorists scrambled to fill up amid a supply disruption due to a shortage of truck drivers.

Vehicles queue to fill up at a petrol station in Camberley, west of London, on September 26, 2021
Vehicles queue to fill up at a petrol station in Camberley, west of London, on September 26, 2021 © Adrian Dennis, AFP

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents almost 5,500 independent outlets, said about two thirds of its members were reporting that they had sold out their fuel, with the rest “partly dry and running out soon”.

In some areas, up to 90 percent of petrol stations had sold out, said PRA Chairman Brian Madderson, adding that the shortages were the result of “panic buying, pure and simple”.

“There is plenty of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for the motorists,” he told the BBC. “It is still in the terminals and the refineries.”

Long lines of vehicles formed at many petrol stations over the weekend, and tempers frayed as some drivers waited for hours. Police were called to one London petrol station Sunday after a scuffle broke out. Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of assault.

BP, which operates 1,200 sites in Britain, said nearly a third of its petrol stations had run out of the two main grades of fuel on Sunday.

The haulage industry says the UK is short of tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain’s Brexit departure from the European Union last year.

Commenting on the petrol stations problems in the UK, France's European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said on Monday they reflected the "intellectual fraud" that was Brexit.

Several countries, including the United States and Germany, also are experiencing a shortage of truck drivers. The problem has been especially visible in Britain, where it has contributed to empty supermarket shelves and shuttered gas pumps.

After weeks of mounting pressure, the UK's Conservative government announced Saturday that it will issue thousands of emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help prevent a Christmas without turkey or toys for many British families. The government said it would issue 5,000 three-month visas for truck drivers starting in October, and another 5,500 for poultry workers.

Industry groups welcomed the new visa plan, although the British Retail Consortium said it was “too little, too late”.

Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the announcement was “the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire”.


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